Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lauded Libya’s anti-Gadhafi rebels while on a visit to the rebel stronghold, Benghazi, on Friday, a day after the United States began deploying unmanned drones to endorse NATO firepower.
In addition to the moral support from McCain, Libyan rebels also made gains on the battleground as they drove pro-government snipers outside of several buildings in the western city of Misrata on Thursday, The Associated Press reported.
Before the snipers were cleared out, they had terrorized residents and targeted rebel fighters in central Misrata, which had been besieged by Moammar Gadhafi’s troops for almost two months.
"Spirits are high but the military situation is still unknown," one rebel who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation told AP. "The rebels easily entered yesterday, so it was clear that the Gadhafi forces quickly withdrew."
Upon his arrival in the war-torn country, McCain, who is one of the strongest proponents in Congress of U.S. military intervention in Libya, called the rebels his “heroes” as he walked out of a local hotel in Benghazi, according to NBC.
McCain said at a news conference that he plans to meet with the opposition’s National Transitional Council, the de facto government in the eastern half of Libya. He called on all countries to acknowledge the council as the legitimate voice of the people in Libya.
The city of Misrata has been one of the main battlegrounds in the embattled North African nation since the fighting began. The humanitarian situation has rapidly declined over the past several weeks, with numerous people leaving the city by any possible means.
Eyewitnesses on the ground there told the United Nations' humanitarian news service that access to food, water, and medical supplies are limited. They also said that dead bodies are strewn about on the streets.
There have also been numerous eyewitness reports that Gadhafi's forces are launching widely-banned cluster bombs in the city of Misrata, which can indiscriminately kill and maim civilians.
This week, NATO commanders said that their airstrikes could not do much more against pro-Gadhafi forces as they have been hiding their tanks and other military equipment in heavily populated civilian areas.